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Breaking Ground


Photographs by Pia Riverola

Two new parents (and former nomads) embrace the old, the new, and the DIY in Northeast L.A.

Couple with child sitting on outdoor lounge
When i was eighteen, I
started working on this
island off the coast
of New Hampshire. Out
there, you really start
to learn how to make
do with what you have.
If you want to build
something, It’s ten
miles by boat to get
a part, so you try to
figure something out.
That really solidified
the DIY, use-what-you-
have existence for me.

Mikael Kennedy spent nearly a decade as a roving photographer-for-hire, working through rolls of Polaroid film as he went. When he stayed in one place long enough, he’d build out a loft bed or a bookshelf to make his latest accommodations his own.

Basically, i just wander
around the place and
I’ll look at something
and be like, oh, that
could be better, and I’ll
start tearing it apart.
When I have an idea for
something I want to
make, I don’t want to
wait around till I can
find the exact right
piece—I’ll just see what
I have that I can use.
Man with child on shoulders, adjusts thermostat
Living room scene

He met his wife, Melaena, on the Lower East Side, and they fell in love with California on a trip to Joshua Tree. Discovering they had a baby on the way, they decided to move west for good. Now their young family dwells in Glassell Park, a few miles north of Downtown L.A.

Man adjust Nest camera
I built our kitchen
table—which is outside,
because we’re in
Southern California—
the bookshelves,
the tv stand, the
outdoor furniture. The
running joke with my
construction is that I
measure once and cut
twice—I wouldn’t stand
on anything I’ve built,
but it works.

For Mikael, the cutting- edge technology complements the century-old and the handmade—and the added sense of safety is important, too.

Man leaning over work bench in backyard

Their home is also the headquarters of King Kennedy Rugs, the business started a few years back as an outlet for Mikael’s burgeoning antique-rug obsession. He focuses on Navajo and Persian designs, fascinated by the human traces left on the textiles—weavers’ insignias, and imprints of men and women at prayer. At the house, amid his inventory and the al fresco furniture he’s knocked together himself, the Kennedys recently added a Nest Camera, alarm system, and smoke detector, to help them watch over their still-evolving space.

Man standing near bookshelf in living room
Rugs were
predominately made
by nomadic people;
when they traveled,
they would actually
lay the rugs down
in front of the
fires and ‘build’
their living room
wherever they had
set up their camp.

Mikael loves the resulting mix of old and new—the cutting-edge technology complementing the century-old and the handmade. The added sense of safety is important, too—as, of course, are the DIY possibilities. He’s already thinking about using the camera to film nighttime wildlife, catching some of the critters that pass by the patio. It’s a way to bring the outside in, just a bit. And the next time they hit the road, with toddler in tow, Nest will help them know that their home is okay, too.

Bedroom with double bed and chest of drawers
We have a nest alarm
system that hooks up
to all our doors, and
then it also hooks up to
a smoke detector and a
camera. They all speak
to each other, which
is kind of fascinating,
in a house full of old
wooden things. I always
like that dichotomy—
to me, it’s mixing the
modern with the
antique that makes
things interesting.
Young boy reaching for web camera on bookshelf